The CIA Handbook for Mothers

Let’s talk about interrogation techniques, shall we? Let’s imagine there’s a tiny yet vital piece of information in your four-year-old’s brain that you need to extract—say, the location of his shoes. Now, if you’re dealing with a mentally-stable, hormonally-balanced, not-diabolically-possessed person who’s at least passingly-competent in your language, you might simply ask, “Where are your shoes?” But a four-year-old is none of those things. A four-year-old will respond to direct questioning by tapping a finger against his lips in a simulacrum of reflective thought, then giving an answer that (33% of the time) doesn’t make sense, contextually. Puppy, where are your shoes? Hmmm… Raining. Sometimes, (56% of the time) the answer will be merely unhelpful: They’re somewhere in the house… (more finger tapping) or outside the house. Invariably, the answer will be wrong. (With maybe a .3% lucky-guess correct response rate).

Puppy got into my jewelry box and selected these items to wear to school. I see Fate's hand in this as it comes a week after I mocked a boy in Puppy's class for wearing a giant, floral headband all day. No, I didn't mock him to his face! Good grief. I did it behind his back, obviously.  The headband is Lily's. I just keep it in my jewelry box. You know... for its safety.

Puppy got into my jewelry box and selected these items to wear to school. I see Fate’s hand in this as it comes a week after I mocked a boy in Puppy’s class for wearing a giant, floral headband all day.
No, I didn’t mock him to his face! Good grief. I did it behind his back, obviously. Also, the headband is Lily’s.

So how do you get at that little fact your four-year-old has squirreled away? I’m telling you right now you can rule out the what-were-you-doing-when line of questioning. Four-year-olds are insensitive to the passage of time. Anything that happened to Puppy before this exact moment that we’re in right now happened when he was three. When Puppy goes to bed tonight and wakes up tomorrow morning, it’ll still be today. This is what I mean:

The lower half of the timeline reflects how rational people perceive the flow of time; the upper half reflects Puppy's perception of time.  For the sake of simplicity, I've chosen to constrain the timeline by Puppy's birth date on the left and an arbitrary day in December, 2017 on the right. This was simply an editorial decision and should in no way be construed as a statement about the birth of our planet, evolution of the species, intelligent design, or the end of days.

The lower half of the timeline reflects how rational people perceive the flow of time; the upper half reflects Puppy’s perception of time.
For the sake of simplicity, I’ve chosen to constrain the timeline by Puppy’s birth date on the left and an arbitrary day in December, 2017 on the right. This was simply an editorial decision and should no way be construed as a statement about the birth of our planet, evolution of the species, intelligent design, or the end of days.

Clearly, time-based questions are futile.  Though, there’s a flavor of chronological interrogation that I will employ from time-to-time—not because it’s successful, but because I’m desperate. I call it attempted-hypnotism, and this is how it plays out in our house:

Puppy, remember when you were riding your bike in the driveway, after nap? Uh-huh. And you were wearing your shoes? Uh-huh. And you came inside through the garage, right? Yep. And you took off your shoes—remember that? Nods head. Where did you put them? My hands were cold on the bike and I needed my gloves with the spiders on them, but if I eat the nola [granola] bar with my gloves on, the crumbs stick to the gloves. Mommy, why is it cold outside? Because it’s springtime in Seattle, honey. When you came in for the granola bar, did you take off your shoes? I already had the nola bar; I came in for the gloves. Okay, and did you take off your shoes? Why? Because they’re missing. Just like the dune buggy is missing!*  

Of course, the Puppy added his own style to the accessories.

Of course, the Puppy added his own style to the accessories.

Other interrogation techniques I’ve tried:

  • The philosophical approach: Puppy, if you were a pair of lost shoes, where would you be?
  • The ambush: Holy smokes, look at the size of that crow where did you put your shoes?!
  • The sing-song subliminal: If you’re happy and you know it find your shoes—where are they!
  • (I’m morally incapable of trying this one, but it’s popular in certain circles) Maternal guilt: If you loved me, you’d find your shoes.

Alas, a four-year-old’s mind is locked down tighter than a lid on a bottle of children’s suspension Advil when your baby is shrieking and your head is pounding from that third glass of wine you allowed yourself because it’s Friday and surely the kids will sleep in tomorrow but no, the baby is cutting molars beginning now. Just accept that you will not learn the location of the missing shoes from the person who last handled them.

Our new house has an alcove for, like, art 'n stuff. We don't have any art, so Puppy often plays the part-- striking a pose in the alcove. I have dreams of getting him to stand there while guests are visiting-- maybe making subtle, mute commentary on our conversation with his body art.

Our new house has an alcove for, like, art ‘n stuff. We don’t have any art, so Puppy often plays the part– striking a pose in the alcove. I have dreams of getting him to stand there while guests are visiting– maybe making subtle, mute commentary on our conversation with slight contortions in his body art.

We looked in all the logical places for a four-year-old’s shoes: the freezer (which is where the Kitten stores her socks), the garbage can (where Kitten stores her nuks), the box of Christmas ornaments shoved into the farthest reaches of our garage… The shoes simply POOF! disappeared. And now we’re taking bets as to when we’ll find them. Here’s what we’ve got so far—let me know if you’d like to wager; it’s just $5 to get in on the action:

  • Husband: As soon as we buy new shoes
  • intrepid librarian: When we move
  • Neighbor mom with two boys: As soon as he outgrows the missing pair

* The dune buggy toy disappeared maybe two years ago, but Puppy brings it up whenever something is newly lost. He has a litany of lost things he periodically runs through: the dune buggy, the door wedge, the light-up shoes… I think it comforts him, his mantra of lost things. I should get him a dashboard-statue of the patron saint of lost things. Care to wager how long before he loses it?

Great Moments in US History

Subject change: Puppy had a play date over last weekend and the two of them, plus the boy who lives next door (who will no doubt begin to feature prominently in this blog and, thus, needs a nickname) did a little gardening. The resulting photos are mediocre in terms of composition, lighting, and focus, but they still struck a chord for me, and I think I figured out why:

 

Doesn't this look like part of a WPA mural you'd find on the side of a Federal building in San Francisco?

Doesn’t this look like part of a WPA mural you’d find on the side of a Federal building in San Francisco?

 

Iwo Jima. Totally. Or maybe Crossing the Delaware, backwards.

Iwo Jima. Totally. Or maybe Crossing the Delaware, backwards.

 

The Kennedys. There's a pitcher of martinis just off-screen.

The Kennedys. There’s a pitcher of martinis just off-screen.

 

Pretty much any 1950s TV show. Really, I just wanted to include the photo.

Pretty much any 1950s TV show. Really, I just wanted to include the photo.

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The Line Between Nickname and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy is a Wafer-Thin Mint

My new job is in downtown Seattle and I haven’t yet been able to resist the lure of so many coffee shops within walking distance of my building—hell, in my building’s lobby. I’ve imbibed daily, which is probably why we’re not making headway on the kids’ college savings, but that’s not my point. Hold on—I’m getting to it.

There are also innumerable food trucks nearby with the most wonderful gastroethnic fusions, like Hawaiian bip bim bap, Japanese hot dogs, and turkey on whole wheat with mayo. These, too, I’ve been unable to resist, though their dollar-to-calorie ratio is easier to stomach, if you will.

The Kitten got a new scooting-thing and a helmet this weekend.

The Kitten got a new scooting-thing and a helmet this weekend.

At each of these locations, I need to give the cashier a name for my order. Of course, my name is too long—too vulnerable to mispronunciations that raise my hackles—to be a practical offering, but I have to give them a name that I’ll instinctively respond to when called out over a crowd. So, I give them Kitten’s name. And now that I’ve been working downtown a little over a month, and now that I’ve frequented the same coffee shop and French bahn mi truck repeatedly, I’ve begun being greeted by Kitten’s name before I’ve even placed my order.

I feel false in accepting the greetings, but nor do I want to hold up the line with long and feeble explanations the cashier couldn’t care less about and that I’d have to repeat to the next cashier the following day, anyway. And then each time they ask for a name for the order I’d have to say, “Well, my name is intrepid librarian, but you can just call me Kitten,” which is absurd, and a little narcissistic, don’t you think? OMG, intrepid librarian—you’re so funny! This exchange over the cash register is going to be the highlight of my week.

I know, I know-- a helmet for a not-yet-two-year-old... We're raising a generation of wusses.

I know, I know– a helmet for a not-yet-two-year-old… We’re raising a generation of wusses.

So, I’m just going to have to stay with the façade I’ve adopted. Maybe I’ll flesh it out further—try to truly inhabit Kitten’s persona during the sales transaction. Like… I could make eyes at the people in line around me—maybe blow kisses or coax them into an endless game of peek-a-boo. Or I could drop my wallet and say, “Uh-oh,” wait for someone to pick it up, smile coyly at them, and repeat ad infinitum.  Or I could take a different tack and just lie down in the middle of the line where people are stepping, and go boneless if anyone tries to move me. Or throw myself across the counter in abrupt, Southern-belle histrionics when they’ve run out of multigrain bagels.

Oh Kitten… you are not boring, sweet girl.

But that's kind of the point: raising our kids. Maybe she'll be coddled and wussy, but she'll  also be alive. I win.

But that’s kind of the point: raising our kids. Maybe she’ll be coddled and wussy, but she’ll also be alive. I win.

The ways in which Kitten is kitten-like:

  • She wants to be inside when she’s out, and outside when she’s in.
  • She will bodily place herself between you and whatever it is you’re focused on, preferably in your line of sight, even if you’re handling sharp implements or fire or highly volatile materiel.
  • She begs for food. Even when you just fed her and she signed that she was “all done” and submitted to a face wiping and asked to get out of her high chair. Then she walks over to the cabinet where the Aussie Bites are stored and signs for “more.”*
  • She scratches you and trips you, but it’s how she shows affection.
  • She demands to be fetched and toted about the house.
She REALLY wanted the damned thing off, though.

She REALLY wanted the damned thing off, though.

The ways in which Kitten is not kitten-like:

  • She doesn’t bathe herself. Unless her drooling counts, which it doesn’t.
  • She doesn’t bury her poop.
Once again proving Kitten is not motivated to do something (like wear a helmet) just because her big brother does.

Once again proving Kitten is not motivated to do something (like wear a helmet) just because her big brother does.
Puppy got a new bike, too.

He's not taken up chewing tobacco; he likes to store his gummy fruits like a chipmunk-- mostly, I think, because he likes it when I call him a chipmunk.

He hasn’t taken up chewing tobacco; he likes to store his gummy fruits like a chipmunk– mostly, I think, because he likes it when I call him a chipmunk.

*Though, to be fair, I think she thinks more actually means Aussie Bites. But still—I just fed you!

 

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